Search results for: shrimp

Once upon a time, say from 1995 through 2002, there was no better place to be come chow time than the Olive Garden. Oh, the unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks! The pastas, whose recipes were pretend-learned at the maybe-not-so-much-extant Culinary Institute of Tuscany! The shrimp scampi, rivaled only by OG’s sister restaurant and frequent neighbor, Red Lobster.

Well, things have gone somewhat downhill since those carefree salad days, and now the OG is a millstone around the neck of its owner, Darden Restaurants. Both because it is not growing as fast as such Darden gems like Bahama Breeze and LongHorn Steakhouse and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, and because it has attracted the attention of hedge-fund rabble-rousers Barington Capital Group and Starboard Value.

To fend off these advances, Darden has suggested spinning off Red Lobster—and Red Lobster alone. This will not do for Barington and Starboard Value, who propose much more radical surgery, including a real-estate spinoff, but, most importantly, keeping the largest purveyors of shrimp scampi in the U.S. under one roof. And that is something Brad Blum, Olive Garden president from 1995 to 2002, can get behind. Read more »

Holiday Bell: 12.31.13

Winners of 2013: Boring Investors (WSJ)
In the best year for U.S. stocks since 1995, the smart way to play the markets has been to follow the dumb money. So-called dumb-money strategies, which involve buying and holding a plain-vanilla portfolio of U.S. stocks, did much better than the more complex approaches employed by hedge funds and other professional investors. Fueled by easy money from the Federal Reserve and signs of improvement in the economy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average goes into the final day of 2013 with a gain of 29% once dividends are included, while the S&P 500 index has climbed 32% with dividends. Those gains far outpace the rally predicted by even the most bullish Wall Street strategists. Many hedge funds were left in the dust, alongside investors who use “tactical” timing of the markets’ ups and downs and those who spread their bets among a wide variety of assets such as commodities, emerging markets and exchanged-traded funds.

Private Equity Enjoys A Record Year (WSJ)
Private-equity firms are set to return a record amount of cash to their investors for 2013, after taking advantage of buoyant markets to sell hundreds of billions of dollars of investments. From initial public offerings to company debt deals that pay private-equity investors hefty dividends—this year will be remembered for the gains earned by firms that specialize in buying and selling companies, and by the pension funds, university endowments and wealthy individuals that invest in them. Investors in private-equity funds are expected to receive more than $120 billion for 2013, topping last year’s record of $115 billion, according to estimates by Cambridge Associates LLC, which gets a glimpse of firms’ finances as an adviser to private-equity investors. In the first half of 2013, private-equity firms returned $60.8 billion to investors.

Pot Shops in Denver Open Door to $578 Million in Sales (Bloomberg)
Toni Fox plans to open the doors of her Denver marijuana shop at 8 a.m. tomorrow to a line of customers including some who camped overnight to be the first in the U.S. to legally buy pot for recreational use. Fox has arranged for canopy tents, heaters and a food truck to offer donuts and pastries to patrons waiting for the state-appointed hour. She expects sales at her 3D Cannabis Center, operating since 2010 as a medical-marijuana dispensary near the Denver Coliseum, to surge to at least $250,000 a month from $30,000, she said. “We’ll have people out the door,” Fox, 42, a Salida resident, said by telephone. “It’s going to be a very festive atmosphere. We all feel like we’re walking on sunshine right now.” Fox’s shop is among 14 in Denver that got state and local licenses in time to sell marijuana to anyone 21 or older starting Jan. 1, just over a year after Colorado and Washington voters made their states the first to legalize recreational use. Washington’s shops are expected to open later in the year. Colorado projects $578.1 million a year in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. Wholesale transactions taxed at 15 percent will finance school construction, while the retail levy of 10 percent will fund regulation of the industry.

‘Sell’ Report Fails To Chill Herbalife (NYP)
Herbalife shares look to be wrapped in Kevlar. The controversial diet-shake seller’s stock, one of the hottest this year with a gain of 136 percent, barely budged Monday after getting hit with its first sell recommendation. Shares in the Los Angeles company slipped 0.5 percent, to $77.92.

My ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Review (TRB/Josh Brown)
I’ve known ten or twelve guys who worked at the Lake Success headquarters of Stratton during its heyday; all the stories are true and there’s very little embellishment in the movie. It all happened and then some. I’ve been hearing these stories for fifteen years. There was a diaspora of sorts that happened after that firm went down, a thousand others had opened up shop as the brokers were scattered like seeds in the wind. Boiler room brokerages had sprung up from Westchester to New Jersey to Staten Island to the Financial District in Manhattan to Boca Raton, Florida. But nowhere was there as heavy a concentration as there was on Long Island. At one point, there was a nickel broker-dealer in every glass office tower in Suffolk and Nassau Counties (and many big buildings had several firms housed on different floors, imagine the stairwells). The scripts used in the movie were the exact same ones taught to every NY metro area broker in the late 1990′s. I printed the entire Belfort pitch (which itself had been stolen from the Madison Avenue office of Lehman Brothers) in my book Backstage Wall Street, I’m fairly certain the producers got their hands on it for the film. I doubt Jordan had a copy lying around from twenty years ago. They also used the term “Wildebeest” which is something I use on TV a lot to describe runaway stocks. My friend Paul and I made it up in a finance context five years ago, so I’m flattered, I guess.

$375-per-person New Year’s feast – at Applebee’s? (MarketWatch)
Sure, you may think of Applebee’s as an affordable casual-dining chain, famed for its whiskey-flavored steaks and two-for-$20 dinner specials…But once a year, Applebee’s goes high-end. The chain’s franchise-owned restaurant in the heart of New York’s Times Square offers a $375-a-person New Year’s Eve bash that’s billed as “a night to remember.” (Those under 12 can get in for $250.) But this isn’t your standard Applebee’s bill of fare, the franchisee notes. The party, which starts at 8 p.m. and wraps up at midnight, features an extensive buffet, a “premium” open bar, a house DJ, a dance floor, plus party favors galore. And for those eager to see the ball drop, the restaurant lets patrons “make their way to the streets of Times Square.” As for the vittles themselves, be prepared for “a ton of food” (steak and shrimp included) prepared by “some fairly sophisticated culinary people,” says Zane Tankel, who heads up all 38 Applebee’s restaurants in the New York metro area. Add in the décor and “you wouldn’t know you were at an Applebee’s for that one night,” Tankel says. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.12.13

Banks Speeding Asia Promotions Doubles Rate of Pay Raises (Bloomberg)
Ang Eng Siong, 33, has been promoted every year since he completed Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.’s management associate program in 2010, when he was put in charge of two older, higher-ranked colleagues. “My team members were all a lot more experienced in that particular role,” said Ang, now a vice-president of corporate treasury in Singapore under the chief financial officer. “An opportunity to manage an important project would be rare so they wanted just to give me the exposure.” Banks and companies across Asia are putting local employees like Ang on a fast track to senior roles to counter a dearth of management expertise in the region and to deter staff from being poached by rivals. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. opened its first leadership academy outside of Korea in Singapore in October, following companies from OCBC to Unilever Plc. that have spent millions on training institutes in the region. “Talent is in short supply and secondly businesses are growing faster than people can grow,” said John Nolan, Singapore-based senior vice president of human resources for global markets at Unilever. “One way to fill that talent shortage is to accelerate the rate of readiness of your people.” He said the company’s philosophy is to try to promote employees in emerging markets faster than the five to six years it takes globally to move up a level.

Criminal Action Is Expected for JPMorgan in Madoff Case (Dealbook)
JPMorgan Chase and federal authorities are nearing settlements over the bank’s ties to Bernard L. Madoff, striking tentative deals that would involve roughly $2 billion in penalties and a rare criminal action. The government will use a sizable portion of the money to compensate Mr. Madoff’s victims. The settlements, which are coming together on the anniversary of Mr. Madoff’s arrest at his Manhattan penthouse five years ago on Wednesday, would fault the bank for turning a blind eye to his huge Ponzi scheme, according to people briefed on the case who were not authorized to speak publicly.

For No. 2 at Fed, White House Favors Central Banker in the Bernanke Mold (NYT)
Stanley Fischer, the former governor of the Bank of Israel and a mentor to the Federal Reserve’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, is the leading candidate to become vice chairman of the Fed, according to former and current administration officials. If nominated, and then confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Fischer, 70, would succeed Janet L. Yellen, whom President Obama nominated to succeed Mr. Bernanke as the Fed’s leader when his term ends in January. Mr. Fischer is at once a surprising choice and a popular pick among economists and investors. He is a highly regarded economist with significant policy-making experience, yet many had considered his selection improbable because of his recent service in a foreign government.

Manchester United Faces Doubter in the Market (Dealbook)
The British soccer team Manchester United has made a poor showing on the field this season. Now the British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is making a multimillion-dollar bet that the club’s New York-listed shares are destined for a similar trajectory. Odey Asset Management, Mr. Odey’s fund, has taken a $22 million short position against Manchester United shares. Mr. Odey’s bet pits him against several investors who remain strong supporters of the team. George Soros has a 5.3 percent stake, and GLG, a division of the world’s biggest hedge fund, Man Group, has a 2.2 percent stake.

Kama Sutra cookie cutters set to raise bakers’ temperatures (Daily Mail)
The £17.99 set includes four raunchy positions to recreate in dough, including the naughtily-named ‘Baking From Behind’ and ‘Very Well Risen’ designs. Each cookie cutter depicts two gingerbread men/women positioned in a different sex act found in the ancient erotic manual the Karma Sutra…The instructions read: ‘Simply prepare your favourite type of cookie dough, cut out your shapes and then turn your oven into a sordid little dungeon of carnal pleasure. Whilst you furiously beat the dough, squirt the icing and grab yourself a nice big rack to cool your cookies on, you can think up all sorts of hilarious baking double entendres.’ Read more »

Time was, the life of a junior investment banker meant making an obscene amount of money for someone just out of college, in exchange for, well, everything. Weekends were a privilege, not a right, all-nighters were a way of life, and if your boss wasn’t barking increasingly onerous demands at you, ripping your head off moments after you turned in a one-hundred page pitch book you missed your grandmother’s 90th birthday to finish, and telling you to do it again, and try, this time, “not to fuck it up,” something was very wrong.

Then the financial crisis hit, and Wall Street started paying less, and junior investment bankers started to do some reflection. “Hey,” they said, “We’re not making the kind of money they talked about in Liar’s Poker and The Last Tycoons. Telling girls we work at banks doesn’t melt panties like it used to and gone are the days of Christmas parties on yachts featuring shrimp the size of a fist and hookers brought in at a ratio of 2:1. And what the hell gives re: dinner allowances when working late? Twenty bucks barely covers an appetizer, entree, and Coke.”

So the junior investment bankers got together, like a long-oppressed people often do, and decided they weren’t going to stand for it any longer. First things first, they were going to start interviewing with hedge funds and private equity firms before their two years of servitude were up. They were going to write books about what a hell-hole their employers were, and how they ripped off clients and probably couldn’t even recite John C. Whitehead’s 14 Business Principles if they tried. They were going to tell each other that the trade off for working 100 hours a week (the possibility of one day having a conversation with Gary Cohn’s grundle) was no longer worth it. They were going to leave for Silicon Valley. They were going to tell the younger generations that there wasn’t much difference between being a junior investment banker and a lawyer.

For one bank, Goldman Sachs, that was a bridge too far. So it got a “task force” together to figure out what it could do to make its junior mistmakers slightly less miserable and after a lot of memos and committee meetings and back and forths finally decided to very generously allow the young people to take some (SOME. NOT ALL.) weekends off, in addition to implementing a new system that minimizes the instances of senior bankers making vague requests of underlings and subsequently being forced to ask said underling if they were “some kind of idiot” and stressing that that was “an actual question” awaiting an actual answer.

Basically, it’s an embarrassment of riches that would have been unheard of prior to 2008 and even today might shock some investment banking vets. Read more »

Opening Bell: 08.21.13

Goldman faces losses on erroneous trades (FT)
A computer glitch at Goldman Sachs could cost the investment bank $100m or more after it inadvertently made a large number of erroneous options trades on Tuesday that disrupted trading across multiple US exchanges, market participants told the Financial Times. A trading system that normally tracks how Goldman would price options on behalf of its clients malfunctioned and sent expressions of interest as orders to exchanges operated by NYSE Euronext, Nasdaq OMX and CBOE in the opening minutes of the US trading day, a person familiar with the bank’s trading said. Some of those orders were sent with default prices that differed dramatically from market prices for options linked to stocks and exchange-traded funds including JPMorgan Chase and Kellogg. The bank’s losses from the mishap are expected to become clearer in coming days as the exchanges review each transaction. The problem sparked heated discussions between Goldman, the exchanges and trading firms that took the other side of the trades, people familiar with the situation said.

Justice Department Plans New Crisis-Related Cases (WSJ)
Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is nearing decisions on a number of probes involving large financial firms and that he plans to announce new cases stemming from the economic meltdown in the coming months. “My message is, anybody who’s inflicted damage on our financial markets should not be of the belief that they are out of the woods because of the passage of time. If any individual or if any institution is banking on waiting things out, they have to think again,” Mr. Holder said in an interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal.

Investment banks’ hiring points to uptick in recruitment (FT)
Investment banks including Nomura, Citigroup and Bank of America have started hiring dealmakers and traders in Europe in a sign that recruitment is picking up following a two-year cull that saw thousands of bankers lose their jobs. Recruiters say they are at their busiest since 2010 as banks add new staff in revenue-generating positions including M&A advice to equities trading. … “I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a pent-up desire to hire and all of the recent positive data are making it much easier for them to pull the trigger,” said Joseph Leung, founder of Aubreck Leung, the executive search group. It comes as the rate of job losses in the global investment banking sector has fallen to its slowest pace in two years.

S.E.C. Charges Former Oppenheimer Manager With Misleading Investors (DealBook)
Federal securities regulators accused a former portfolio manager at Oppenheimer & Company on Tuesday of misleading investors about the performance of a fund, a rare enforcement action involving the private equity industry. The Securities and Exchange Commission contends that Brian Williamson issued quarterly reports and marketing materials that inflated the performance results of an Oppenheimer private equity fund.

Volkan the Intruder: Man in Underpants Partied in Merkel’s Jet (Spiegel)
On the night of July 25, a 24-year-old man clutching a bag full of marijuana and ecstasy pills managed with relative ease to get on board an empty government jet used frequently by Chancellor Angela Merkel, while it was parked at a closed military section of the Cologne airport. The man, a bodybuilder of Turkish descent named as Volkan T., proceeded to stage a raucous, one-man party. Reports said he stripped down to his underpants, sprayed fire extinguisher foam around the elegant cream and beige interior, pushed buttons in the cockpit, released an inflatable emergency slide and danced on the wing of the Airbus 319.
Read more »

Write-Offs: 08.13.13

$$$ U.S. Agrees Not to Prosecute ‘London Whale’ [WSJ]

$$$ Fed’s Yellen Says Stance on Banks Hardened [WSJ]

$$$ SEC wins dismissal of lawsuit over handling of $7 billion Stanford fraud [Reuters]

$$$ Ackman said in an interview with Charlie Rose recorded today that his investment in J.C. Penney so far has been a “disappointment.” “We got too much credit” for hiring Ron Johnson, when it was the entire board’s decision, Ackman said. “And when the business failed, I probably got too much of the blame.” [Bloomberg]

$$$ Here Are Two Young Women Digging For Cronuts In The Trash [Gothamist] Read more »

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Opening Bell: 08.09.13

Investor William Ackman Targets J.C. Penney’s CEO (WSJ)
J.C. Penney Co.’s largest shareholder is pressing the board to quickly replace its chief executive, as the battered department-store chain struggles to turn around a deep slide in sales. The move to unseat interim CEO Myron “Mike” Ullman sets up a standoff between hedge fund manager William Ackman, who owns nearly 18% of the company’s stock, and a board that was badly burned the last time it went along with his wishes. It was Mr. Ackman who, as a director, lobbied successfully to bring in former Apple Inc. executive Ron Johnson as chief executive in 2011, a choice that set off a disastrous year of plunging sales, diminishing cash reserves and deep job cuts.

SAC to Keep Managing Money While Facing Indictment (DealBook)
Federal prosecutors and the investment firm SAC Capital Advisors agreed on Thursday to a protective order that requires the firm to keep most of its money in its fund while operating under a criminal indictment, according to a person briefed on the case. The order serves a dual purpose, preserving the government’s interest in any money that it might seize from SAC in a forfeiture action, while also allowing the firm to continue running its money management business.

U.S. steps up probe of JPMorgan over Bear mortgage bonds (Reuters)
The U.S. Department of Justice has stepped up a probe in recent weeks into Bear Stearns & Co’s mortgage dealings in the run-up to the financial crisis, according to two sources familiar with the situation, raising the possibility that JPMorgan Chase & Co may face yet another case over mortgage bonds. Justice Department lawyers in Washington have been interviewing people linked to Bear Stearns’ mortgage securitization business, EMC Mortgage Corp, over sales of mortgage bonds going into the housing crisis, the sources said.

‘London Whale’ Unlikely to Face Charges (WSJ)
Bruno Iksil, the former trader known as the “London whale,” is unlikely to face charges related to bets that backfired into losses of more than $6 billion for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., according to people close to the matter. … Mr. Iksil is no longer a focus of investigators, people familiar with the situation said. Investigators still could decide to reverse course and pursue charges against him, but that is seen as unlikely unless new evidence emerges.

What a pizza $#+! Preposterous poll ranks NY 4th (NYP)
New York pizza-lovers got a black eye from users of the travel megasite TripAdvisor, who rated the city’s slices a paltry fourth in the country behind outposts like San Diego and Las Vegas. Perhaps most offensive was the third-place choice of Boston, where reviewers gushed about pies with oddball toppings like shrimp scampi. “Get out of here, that’s crazy! Boston is No. 3?” said Jackson Heights resident Andrew Silverstein, 31, while enjoying lunch at famed Patsy Grimaldi’s new Brooklyn joint, Juliana’s. “I’ve had pizza in Boston, and it was a horrible experience.”
Read more »

Opening Bell: 11.02.12

Economy Adds 171,000 Jobs (WSJ)
U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 171,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The politically important unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.9%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 125,000 in payrolls and a 7.9% jobless rate.

Hedge Fund Cashes In On Greek Bonds (Reuters)
London-based hedge fund Adelante Asset Management has made a 70 percent gain on a sale of Greek bonds, showing the potential for big profits from betting on a recovery in the fortunes of a country effectively off-limits to investors a few months ago…Since the restructuring, Greek government bond prices have strengthened, allowing Adelante to sell them for around 24 cents on the euro, having bought them for around 14 cents in June, the company said. A Greek government bond maturing in 2042, for example, is currently trading at around 20.8 cents on the euro, Thomson Reuters data shows. Other hedge funds have made similar bets. Third Point, a high profile New York hedge fund, for example, has been a significant buying of cut-price Greek bonds.

RBS Eyes Libor Settlement Soon (WSJ)
RBS wants to seal a settlement with regulators over its alleged rigging of key interest rates in the coming months, as the part state-owned bank looks to draw a line under the scandal. Speaking to reporters at the bank’s third-quarter results presentation, Chief Executive Stephen Hester said he would be “disappointed” if he couldn’t provide details on a settlement by February. “We are up for settling with all and everyone as soon as they are ready. But each regulator has to satisfy itself that it has all the facts,” he said.

Deutsche Bank Faces Top Surcharge as FSB Shuffles Tiers (Bloomberg)
Deutsche Bank would be required to hold more capital and Bank of America Corp.’s burden stands to be reduced as global regulators shuffled the competitive balance among the world’s biggest banks. Citigroup, HSBC and JPMorgan join Deutsche Bank as firms that will be targeted for a capital surcharge of 2.5 percent, according to an updated list published yesterday by the Financial Stability Board. The change means Bank of America already exceeds requirements, while Deutsche Bank would be more than 2 percentage points below the new minimum of 9.5 percent. “That limits earnings potential for Citigroup, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank compared to Bank of America, all other things being equal, so it’s certainly a competitive advantage for them,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Short-Sellers of Europe Set to Be Unmasked (CNBC)
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the EU regulator, has issued new rules on the short-selling of securities indicating that anyone with short positions of greater than 0.2 percent in an EU company’s shares must report it to regulators. Positions of more than 0.5 percent will be publicly released, naming both the company and the short-seller. Public disclosure is triggered any time that level is hit with each 0.1 percent increase or decrease after that.

NYSE Open For Business Shows Wall Street Still Vulnerable (Bloomberg)
The Securities and Exchange Commission may consider whether exchanges’ emergency regimens need to be bolstered, according to a person familiar with the regulator’s thinking who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The industry’s decision to halt equities and bond trading shows the challenge of maintaining markets when a catastrophe threatens New York City, home to 168,700 securities industry workers. “One of the purposes of having electronic exchanges and basing them away from New York City is for the market to be more robust and stay open,” Charles Jones, a finance professor at Columbia Business School in New York, said in a phone interview. “This is what the back-up plans were designed for. But the markets didn’t open.”

Millions Stuck In Dark, Cold (WSJ)
Power was restored by late Thursday to about half of 10 million households and businesses that lost electricity during the storm, according to the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group that represents investor-owned utilities. But millions more remained cut off from power needed to operate furnaces, heaters, refrigerators and lights. “It’s freezing like an ice box,” said Lydia Crespo, who was using a gas stove to heat her home in Staten Island, N.Y., still without power. “No hot water, no light. All you smell is the gas, the oil, the mold.” The death toll attributed to Sandy reached at least 90, authorities said Thursday.

David Blaine Entertains New Yorkers After Hurricane Sandy (NYP)
When a backup generator at Old Homestead Steakhouse sputtered, the restaurant started serving hundreds of pounds of steaks, burgers, lobster tails and shrimp on the street outside for downtown denizens. David Blaine, the modern-day Harry Houdini who spent days recently being shocked in a steel suit, pitched in to provide spontaneous street entertainment. “David was rumbling by on his motorcycle, and he stopped to see why there was a line on 14th Street,” said a spy, adding 800 chowed down. Blaine then asked restaurant co-owner Greg Sherry if there was a deck of cards in the house. Blaine used the full deck and some spare silverware to perform magic tricks outside for an hour and a half. The magic man, an Old Homestead regular, was offered a doggie bag but said he’s on a special diet in preparation for his next stunt. Read more »